Interfaith Peacebuilding Panel Hosted at Mount Union

April 25, 2016

Interfaith Peace PanelALLIANCE, Ohio – A rabbi, chaplain, imam and three professors participated in a panel discussion on interfaith peacebuilding on April 19  at the University of Mount Union.

Rabbi Jon Adland, Chaplain Marty Cashburless, Imam Nader Taha and Mount Union professors Dr. Nicole Johnson, Dr. Ivory Lyons and Dr. Grant Cook engaged in interreligious dialogue to understand the conflict and peace among religions.

Senior honors student Mikayla Kovacik, religious studies and music major of Cadiz, Ohio, organized much of the event and collaborated with the area organizations to make the panel possible. She started the dialogue by asking the panel what they think is the biggest challenge to peace between religions.

Rabbi Jon Adland of Temple Israel in Canton stated, “People have to accept that there are many paths to God. As long as people think they are superior to others, there won’t be peace between religions.”

Nader Taha, imam of the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent, joined the conversation and said, “Religious communities fail in emphasizing universal principles, like the principle of freedom to believe in whatever you want to believe in. God created us with freedom of choice, and he is the only judge.”

The panel agreed that openness and education are two essential aspects to improving the relationships among religious communities. Asking questions and seeking to understand other religions are what people can do to promote peace between religions.

“Part of my journey is that I’m still learning,” commented Marty Cashburless, chaplain at the University of Mount Union. “I need to ask those difficult questions.”

The panel touched on the topic of how the news media tend to show religious people doing hateful and spiteful actions, while most people are doing good actions. One way to respond to those messages, as suggested by Imam Taha, is to be a good role model when representing one’s religious community.

When asked how people must move forward together as a cohesive body to achieve peace in our world, religious studies professor Dr. Nicole Johnson said that people need to be more brave and curious. “Let people know we are open to questions and more willing to have those conversations.”

Imam Taha added, “We’re all fighting similar problems in life…God is saying that we have something in common. Stand on that common ground…and find peace.”

Dr. Cook of the music department wrapped up the dialogue by relating religious peace to the arts by trying to find beauty. “Is it naïve to think that music, art, literature and poetry can change the world? It’s not,” he said. “The exploration of beauty can transform us inside out… Music has the power to transform us and shape our souls.”

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